Venice at Carnival 2013 Trip Report: An Outstanding Photographic Adventure

By Darrell Gulin on Mar 04, 2013

I have been a professional photographer for almost 30 years. I thought I had seen and photographed nearly everything—boy, was I wrong! In early February I returned to Venice with a Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris group, but this trip was timed for Carnevale, the Venice Carnival. It was an all-time most amazing photographic experience.

Venice is a picturesque city of great and historic beauty. At Carnival time, however, a festive mantel of revelers in colorful, elaborate costumes and masks cloak the old-world piazza. It is an occasion and a setting perfect for capturing outstanding images.

Each morning, just before dawn, we walked to San Marco Square to be greeted by revelers who had already been up for hours to dress in their extravagant costumes—and ready to pose for our cameras. Knowing where the revelers would congregate each day gave us access to a wonderful assortment of 70 or more models, all costumed in an astonishing array of finery. Surprisingly, most models—who return year after year with creative and fanciful new attire—are not Italian, but revelers from other parts of Europe, especially France and Germany. Our photo sessions were set against the warm stone exteriors of Venetian architecture, in ornate palace and theater interiors, and at the iconic arched bridges spanning the Grand Canal. We created images framed by the Bridge of Sighs—a touchstone for any visit to Venice, but a perfect backdrop for a costumed model. The graceful pillars and columns on facades lining the square provided an ideal foil to our models’ colorful attire during our portrait sessions. Streetlamps of iron and rose-hued Venetian glass anchored posed costumed models to another time in this unique place.

We photographed at the classic locations—including the Salute basilica, the Bell Tower, and the Rialto and Academy Bridges. Photography in a city where no cars are allowed entails travel by water taxi and Vaporetto (water bus) and only adds to the sense of timelessness. Throughout the week, special moments appeared at every turn. The backstreet network of time-roughened narrow alleyways—many ending at visually-striking doorways—drew our lenses. Brilliantly blue-covered gondolas moored in the canals created reflections in the water. One day, as a few inches of snow fell on the city, we took our cameras and tripods into La Fenice opera house for interior shots. The uncharacteristic snow left a photogenic patterned dusting on tiled rooftops and the dome of the Salute and shone brightly in the lamplight along the Grand Canal.

Our centrally-situated hotel was not only comfortable but put us in the middle of the action with an unbeatable view of the Grand Canal, the Salute, San Marco’s Bell Tower—and much more. From our hotel room windows we could photograph the first light of morning or the last of the sunset.

Plans are already well underway for a return trip next year. Delve into the slide show images to get an early taste of the spectacular locations and the amazing photo shoot that awaits at Carnival time in Venice!